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Book Review: Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going (3/5)

16 Sep

I believe I got this when an old friend was cleaning off her bookshelves. It was one that I’d found on Goodreads and had shelved but thought I’d have to borrow from the library. It’s nice to own a book on craft, seeing as I don’t have many. I just wish it was one I believed in a little bit more.

Cover image via Goodreads

Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going

Summary from the back flap:

Writing & Selling the YA Novel offers a complete lesson plan for writing and publishing fiction for teens. Structured like a day of high school, awared-winning  young adult novel K.L. Going takes you through every stage of YA writing.

Learn how the YA genre has developed in History class. Toss around ideas during Gym. Create authentic teen characters in English class. Craft convincing plots during Lunch. Addit all up in Math as you learn about agents and contracts. Along the way you’ll find plenty of “homework” exercises to help you hone your skills- as well as input from actual teen readers.

At the end of your school day, you’ll have all the knowledge a  young adult author needs to write a book that speaks to teen readers- and get it published.

Going does have a lot of good advice in this book. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I hadn’t recently read Writing Fiction for Dummies because that book took the time to break down methods and strategies a lot better than Going did. She seemed to go over a lot of the writing process at a very high level, likely not wanting to give too much structure to a process every writer explores differently. I did enjoy the history of YA section toward the beginning and her exploration of how YA marketing and content is different at the end. I would recommend those sections to anyone who wants some specific YA knowledge and already knows a lot about writing. The rest of the book is still helpful, but other sources are better for the art of writing.

I thought Going struck a good balance between talking about her strategies and talking in general. She speaks about how she had to use swearing in one of her novels but how it makes sense for other authors to leave that element out. She speaks about creating her own characters and how other authors have done similar things. She spoke so much about Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War that I added it to my TBR.

Going did give a fair picture of the struggles of editing and as I’m going through that right now, I related to the struggle. It’s a long and tedious process. I didn’t feel she gave a lot of solid advice on how to approach that, but her portrayal of the long process was relatable.

K.L. Going
Image via the author’s website

I liked the chapter where she talked about what is and isn’t included in YA fiction and why. She focused on being realistic instead of surprising and including what is really there. In my novel, it’s 1920s Chicago. There will be smoking, drinking, and swearing. I felt weird about including some of that at first, but I realize not having it would be even more at odds with my setting so I need to embrace it.

I’ve already detailed that I felt the editing section could have used some more detail. She talked about professional editors which was new to me but didn’t go into a lot of detail on how to self-edit. Granted, there are full books on this and what Going could have covered in one chapter would have been a very brief overview, but it would have been something.

Going’s overall message was that teen fiction isn’t too different from adult fiction except for the age of the characters. Teens can handle the same topics and complexity as adult novels so there’s no reason to hold back on the content and themes. Granted, some topics might lend themselves better to adult characters and then might not make good teen novels, but I’m generalizing here.

Writer’s Takeaway: Going made two good points: write for an intelligent teen audience and don’t preach. Some writers want to write for teens because they think they have something to teach teenagers. No one wants to read a sermon so while books have a message, it’s probably best not to write with one in mind.

Overall, a helpful read, but not as much detail as I was hoping for. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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